GENEVA, March 21, 2013 (AFP) – Myanmar must launch an independent investigation into reports of widespread human rights violations, the United Nations’ top human rights body said Thursday.
As Myanmar was hit by its worst communal unrest since a wave of Buddhist-Muslim clashes last year, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling on the government to launch “a full, transparent and independent investigation into all reports of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.”
It also lamented “persisting inter-communal tensions” and called for “a proper investigation into detention and prison conditions and allegations of the use of torture in prisons.”
The resolution, tabled by the European Union, was adopted through full consensus in the 47-member council.
Ireland’s ambassador Gerard Corr, representing the EU, noted that Myanmar had taken important steps “towards political reform, democratisation and national reconciliation, and an improvement in the human rights situation in the country.”
But as the once-pariah country approaches the second anniversary since a quasi-civilian regime led by ex-general Thein Sein took power, the resolution voiced deep concern about “remaining human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
It also called upon the Myanmar government to “undertake judicial reform to ensure the independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary, lawyers and prosecutors.”
Myanmar is not a member of the council, but its ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Manug Wai, nonetheless took the floor to say that while his delegation accepted the resolution as a whole, it took exception to “a litany of… allegations, some prescriptive language and misleading wordings.
“These are unacceptable,” he said, insisting that the charges of rights abuses “should be treated purely as allegations,” and maintaining that the government is already probing any reported rights abuses in the country.
He said the abuses detailed in the resolution “do not match the situation on the ground,” insisting that Myanmar had made great strides and now embraces “human rights both in theory and in practice.”
Corr also emphasised the “positive steps” Myanmar had taken, “including the release of a significant number of political prisoners,” but said that “serious challenges remain.”
That was evident Thursday, as at least 10 people were killed in riots in the centre of the country in a second day of fighting amid heightened tensions between Muslims and Buddhists.
Communal conflict in a different region, the western state of Rakhine, left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced last year, overshadowing international optimism about the country’s widely praised political reforms since the end of military rule two years ago.